Congress is attempting to gut a commonsense protection for communities devastated by pollution from coal mining. And they are using an obscure provision – the Congressional Review Act – to do it with almost no debate.
Why? Because coal companies want them to.
After close to a decade of work, the Obama administration finalized the Stream Protection Rule. The SPR is the first major update to surface mining protections in 30 years. This long awaited rule is pretty simple. It gives communities information about mining operations near them so they can take action to protect their drinking water supplies from pollution. The rule also provides commonsense safeguards against destruction from coal mining activities.
Essentially the Stream Protection Rule helps to prevent coal companies from profiting off of the destruction of clean water. Yet Congress wants to get rid of it.
We know from its impacts in our own community and throughout the Youghiogheny River watershed that coal mining is devastating. The 125 square mile Indian Creek watershed has over 130 discharges from abandoned coal mines. Active mining has polluted surface water and destroyed private water supplies like wells and springs for residents who previously relied on them. In dozens of peer-reviewed studies, mining has been linked to cancer, birth defects, and other serious health problems among residents of communities living near these sites. The Stream Protection Rule gives communities like ours information they need to safeguard water supplies.
That is why the rule is so vital. Everyone deserves to know what is in their water.
Despite what the coal industry wants us to believe, public health and environmental protections have not caused the industry’s decline. Other sources of energy, like oil and natural gas are the culprits. Unfortunately sector-wide declines in coal prices and bankruptcies have left promised reclamation of land and water unfinished and the health, well being, and economies of local communities in ruins. This is yet another reason we need the Stream Protection Rule – it is more important than ever to limit the environmental and health damage that these coal companies leave in their wake. Further, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s (OSMRE) analysis of the rule shows it can be implemented with minimal impact on jobs. If anything, the Stream Protection Rule will create jobs.
Every community deserves access to clean and safe water. By gutting the Stream Protection Rule using the Congressional Review Act, Congress would put the water of cities and towns through Appalachia and elsewhere where coal is mined permanently at risk. Blocking the rule under the Congressional Review Act prevents any “substantially the same” effort by the Department of the Interior. This is an extreme and unacceptable move by Congress. It blocks the agency from doing its basic job – managing and protecting our natural resources.
We need more protections for our vital water resources, not fewer. Congress must reject any attempt to repeal the Stream Protection Rule. We expect a vote in the House on this issue tomorrow, Wednesday February 1st, and we expect the Senate will take it up soon.
Take action now. Make sure your Senators and Representatives know that you expect them to protect clean water, not coal company profits. Click here to find your legislators and please– call them, email them or tweet them today!